Monday, April 16, 2012

Titanic Lore: A Fascinating Look at the Cuisine Aboard the Luxury Liner

Authors Anthony F. Chiffolo and Rayner W. Hesse, Jr. share some history and recipes from the ocean liner Titanic:

The sinking of the ocean liner RMS Titanic on April 15, 1912, was a major sea disaster that still rivets the collective imagination. This year marks the one hundredth anniversary of the night the Titanic struck an iceberg and sank beneath the cold surface of the North Atlantic, and much has been and will be written about the ship and her passengers. To round out the historical details that have become part of the Titanic lore, we present here some information about the provisioning of the ship for her maiden voyage.

The Titanic was carrying 2,207 passengers (below capacity) and 898 crewmembers. To feed this number during the planned ocean crossing, an enormous amount of food had to be loaded on board. The list of provisions included 75,000 pounds of fresh meat, 11,000 pounds of fresh fish, 7,500 pounds of bacon and ham, 25,000 pounds of poultry, and 2,500 pounds of sausages; 40,000 fresh eggs; 40 tons of potatoes, 3,500 pounds of onions, 3,500 pounds of tomatoes, and 2,500 pounds of fresh peas; 800 bundles of asparagus and 7,000 heads of lettuce; 2,200 pounds of coffee and 800 pounds of tea; 250 barrels of flour and 10,000 pounds of sugar; 36,000 oranges, 16,000 lemons, 36,000 apples, and 13,000 grapefruits; 1,500 gallons of milk, 1,200 quarts of fresh cream, and 6,000 pounds of butter; 20,000 bottles of beer and stout, 1,500 bottles of wine, 15,000 bottles of mineral waters; and 8,000 cigars. The very numbers seem incredible, even to those of us who buy “in bulk” at some of the big box stores, but the ship’s supply officers were quite experienced and knew exactly how much each passenger would require during the course of the voyage.

For Sunday, April 14, 1912, the menu for the first-class luncheon, which was served from 1:00 to 2:30 p.m., consisted of consommé fermier; cock-a-leekie soup; fillets of brill; egg à l’Argenteuil; chicken à la Maryland; corned beef with vegetable dumplings or grilled mutton chops; mashed, fried, or baked jacket potatoes; custard pudding; lemon meringue; and pastry. If passengers missed the luncheon seating, there was also a 24-hour buffet that served dishes such as salmon mayonnaise, potted shrimps, Norwegian anchovies, soused herrings, plain and smoked sardines, roast beef, round of spiced beef, veal and ham pie, Virginia and Cumberland ham, bologna sausage, brawn, galantine of chicken, corned ox tongue, lettuce, beetroot, and tomatoes. A cheese board consisted of Cheshire, Stilton, Gorgonzola, Edam, Camembert, Roquefort, St. Ivel, and cheddar. Finally, Munich lager beer was available on draft.!

Sunday dinner was served from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. For the first-class passengers, the menu was quite extensive: Hors D’Oeuvres Variés, Oysters, Consommé Olga, Cream of Barley Soup, Salmon with Mousseline Sauce and Cucumber, Filets Mignons Lili, Sauté of Chicken Lyonnaise, Vegetable Marrow Farcie, Lamb with Mint Sauce, Roast Duckling with Apple Sauce, Sirloin of Beef with Château Potatoes, Green Peas and Creamed Carrots, Boiled Rice, Parmentier and Boiled New Potatoes, Punch Romaine, Roast Squab and Cress, Cold Asparagus Vinaigrette, Pâté de Foie Gras with Celery, Waldorf Pudding, Peaches in Chartreuse Jelly, Chocolate and Vanilla Éclairs, and French Ice Cream. Truly an elegant meal to mark the first Sunday of the Titanic’s voyage, and one for which the diners dressed even more splendidly than usual!

Some Titanic enthusiasts have suggested that as the meal came to an end, the first-class guests were served fresh fruit and cheese. This idea is based on the witness of one survivor who mentioned that every table was feted with a large basket of fruit, including incredibly large and delectable bunches of grapes. This goes beyond elegance to the point of overkill, and since it was not listed on the menu itself, it’s possible that the witness was referring to the cheeses and fruits available in the buffet for the guests to take to their staterooms, to help stave off hunger pains until the next feast could be had.

By 1912 it had become the tradition to serve coffee at the end of a good meal, probably either a drip blend or some sort of Turkish variety, much like today’s espresso. This was accompanied by port, post-dining liqueurs, and, for the gentleman, cigars.[1]

Anthony F. Chiffolo and Rayner W. Hesse, Jr. are the authors of Cooking with the Movies: Meals on Reels and Cooking with the Bible: Recipes for Biblical Meals. When not cooking, Hesse serves as pastor of St. John’s Episcopal Church in New Rochelle, NY, and Chiffolo is Editorial Director at ABC-CLIO. They reside in Hartsdale, NY.  Their website is .

[1] Archbold, Rick, and Dana McCauley. Last Dinner on the Titanic. Toronto: Madison Press Books, 1997, 90.

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